How can I learn drums quickly

Workshop: practice concepts and effective practice for drummers

How can you make the most of your practice time on the drums?

Everything you need to know about practicing

Image: Shutterstock / Sahacha Nilkumhang

In all the days, months and years that we have been dealing with our instrument, many of us have hardly dealt with what we are actually doing: practicing. But what exactly is practice? And what does proper practice look like? Is there any right or wrong at all? How can you get the most out of your practice time, and is there perhaps a shortcut?

If you look at all the outstanding musicians, you will see that they all seem to have mastered their instruments effortlessly, and their supposedly above-average talent is often cited as the reason that they can even achieve this impressive performance. Unfortunately, this often suggests that a normal mortal will never be able to make such big leaps. It is clear that talent cannot be measured and that the words “talent” or “talent” are actually constructs with which one merely interprets and explains the special achievement. The old adage “No master has fallen from heaven” could not be more apt here.

Nobody picks up an instrument and masters it after a short time. Although it has been scientifically proven that it is easier for children to master movement sequences and learning processes, there is simply no age at which a person no longer learns. Basically, however, there is a roughly measured period of about ten years in which a musician has to deal intensively with his instrument in order to become a mature musician. In the following, we want to give you valuable tips for mindful practice, which you can use to improve your game sustainably.

What actually is practice?

Structured or chaotic, seldom or often - we all do it somehow. The methodical repetition that aims to acquire, maintain or improve skills is simply called an exercise. If you take a closer look at the topic, you repeatedly stumble across the English term "Deliberate Practice", which describes the reflective and effective learning process. This is about the transition from one level of competence to the next higher. The respective material is practiced in a very structured way in order to achieve the greatest possible improvement in performance. This form of learning is described as the most effective type of exercise.

Muscle Memory - The motor memory

This form of learning involves many small steps that create a stable foundation. The word "muscle memory" is often used here, which is best translated as "muscle memory". One can observe this process again and again in oneself. For example, if you have to memorize and conscientiously memorize the processes involved in starting and driving a car in the first few hours of driving, these things will already run routinely and almost automatically after a few trips. It was just as challenging to tie your shoelaces for the first time as a child. All these processes have passed into the subconscious so much that they can now be carried out for each of us without any effort. It is exactly the same on the instrument. While it was extremely difficult for us drummers to move all four limbs separately at the beginning, we can now control the motor processes for things that we have learned long enough without having to think too much about each note. Effective practice is therefore about memorizing new things on the instrument in a manageable time frame in such a way that they pass into the subconscious. Especially in the creative process of making music, it is no longer just a matter of incorporating what has been practiced into the music, but of reacting emotionally to the fellow musicians and interacting with them. And that only works if you no longer have to think about motor processes.

How do you practice on the drums?

It is particularly important that the exercises are targeted. Of course, motivation and discipline play a decisive role. Just because you've practiced for two hours doesn't make you a better musician afterwards. Many practice what they can already do and not what needs improvement in order to develop further. Real learning processes will never feel as comfortable for us as playing our favorite song. So you will probably not enjoy it directly, but you will certainly gain a high degree of satisfaction and satisfaction when you later realize that you have really mastered new things. Motivation and perseverance outweigh talent and innate ability. The highest level of musical ability that one can achieve is mainly determined by how strong the motivation to get involved with one's own instrument is. Nevertheless, after completing the exercises, you should take time to play and make music. It is important that the instrument doesn't feel like work and that we don't forget that we make music for pleasure.

What exactly do you practice?

To find out, the first thing to do is to find your own weaknesses or challenges and then set goals to overcome them. Everyone has probably experienced this before: You play a piece from start to finish and wonder why you still haven't really mastered it. Now it's time to get down to business. It is important to honestly admit to yourself what is not yet running smoothly. For example, it can be a whole style, a feel, a special groove or even just a beat that keeps causing you problems and that you should now take on. Basically, it is advisable to make a note of exactly which things you want to work on. It helps to formulate short-term and long-term goals and to find ways to achieve them. Practice sessions must have specific, challenging, but also reasonable goals. It is also important to be aware of why you are practicing before each exercise. Weekly goals, such as completing a page of an exercise book, should be broken down into daily or small, short-term goals. For example, a thought might be, "For the next few minutes I'll be playing the first line as accurately as possible so I can do the whole exercise by the end of the week." When practicing effectively (deliberate practice), it is advisable to take on a task that is simple enough that you can master it in one to three days of practice. All things that take longer are too complex. Thereby achievable tasks always build on one another and improve or expand existing skills. So you really go to the foundations of your own game and develop it sustainably.

It is particularly important to work through the material very slowly and piece by piece. Sometimes it can also help to turn the hand movement around so that at some point you can really play a musical motif in a really variable way. Once you have identified a basic difficulty, you should work on the problems with various exercises. In such cases it is particularly important to have a teacher who can provide you with a wide variety of exercises that are tailored precisely to the task at hand. But even the best teacher does not replace practice and self-reflection. It is not only important that you play through the exercises, but also that you deal intensively with how you can improve yourself further. It also helps a lot to take in what is now possible with every telephone in astonishingly good quality. The analysis of your own game is at least as important as the exercise itself, as you can see much faster which things are not yet running smoothly, but sometimes you can also discover to your own surprise that something sounds better than you would have thought.

In addition to modern media such as YouTube, there are countless textbooks available. Here it is important to carefully and carefully select which material is available when.

Technology vs. music

It is easy for some drummers to get lost in optimizing their technique and forget what you are practicing for. Technology is (only) the tool for music. There is no point in having the most sophisticated technology if you cannot use it musically. No band colleague or spectator is interested in the exact Moeller technique or how fast you can play double hits. Playing a groove properly requires more than just executing the note values.

How long should you practice?

The saying “grass doesn't grow faster if you pull on it” fits very well here. Improving and internalizing new things takes time, and there are no short cuts. Basically, when practicing, it is not the quantity that matters, but the quality. What has been learned can only be internalized through repetition. If you can now implement the new hand movement, a groove or a fill motorically, you should do it over and over again at an appropriate, slow pace. You should practice with and without the metronome and pay attention to the exact execution. The foundation is laid at a slow pace, which is why it is important to play the exercise at this pace long enough. Scientists recommend performing exercises as slowly as possible in order to give the brain the chance to control and store the sequence of movements. All errors or uncleanliness manifest themselves and are otherwise “taken along” at a faster pace, which can be very frustrating. At the same time, however, you should also keep an eye on the “target pace” and gradually increase the pace. Practicing is a mentally demanding workout, so taking breaks is an important part of the process. Professor Dr. In the bonedo interview, Andreas C. Lehmann recommends practicing at intervals, taking short breaks after 20 minutes of concentrated practice and taking a longer break after a total of one hour. He also points out that after four hours of concentrated work, the maximum is reached and the head cannot process any further information. In addition, it can make perfect sense to take a break from the instrument for a few weeks a year. Things sit down and you start afterwards with completely new inspiration and motivation. Give it a try.

Create exercise plans

The long-term goal of becoming the best drummer you can be is excellent, but not specific enough. An exercise plan helps immensely to get a structure in the respective exercise cycles. Based on the goals you have set yourself, you should structure the various exercises and also let the breaks become part of the daily learning program. It also helps many to set a period of time for the respective exercises and then to concentrate fully on the exercise over this limited time.

Avoid distractions

In order to maintain concentration, it helps to eliminate possible sources of distraction. The widely used metronome apps on smartphones or tablets can also be used in flight mode, which protects you from constant push notifications. In order to really practice, you first have to get into the process, which is hardly possible if you are distracted by news and updates that you can actually take care of later during the well-deserved break. This helps with practice and for a clear conscience.

To avoid frustration while practicing, you should constantly set yourself small but achievable goals. Image: Shutterstock / photoschmidt

Motivation vs. Frustration

The intensive preoccupation with the instrument and your own skills can be overwhelming. The fact is that you cannot “learn out” an instrument. We could practice around the clock until the end of our lives and still never get “finished”. Motivation is particularly important when practicing, which shouldn't degenerate into a duty and in the end it may take away the fun of the music. Say goodbye to practicing 50 different things just a little at a time, just to feel like you could do a lot. It is much more sustainable for learning success to take a simple, basic task and build on it. The actual improvement only happens little by little and in small steps that will ultimately lead to a profound change. For your own motivation it is necessary to appreciate the learning success of these small successes. At the same time, it is also very important to “stay tuned” in less motivated times. Difficult passages of a piece, complicated grooves or an unfamiliar feel take a long time to develop, and that's why you should learn to appreciate what you have achieved at some point.


A not negligible part of practicing is listening to music. Of course, it is important to be intensely involved in your own playing, but listening is an elementary part of developing as a musician. Nowadays in particular, music is often consumed as a by-product. Music is playing in every department store and even in the public toilet. Really active listening to music is a task that should be pursued with the greatest possible attention, as it promotes inspiration, creativity and motivation. Platforms like YouTube have a huge amount of material and knowledge at hand, but they are no substitute for a concert. The same applies to online portals with workshops. They do not replace a teacher who can target someone with his knowledge, but should (only) be seen as a source of inspiration.

The idea of ​​competition

In times of social media, self-optimization and life hacks, the idea of ​​competition is inevitable. While many areas of the music business are certainly subordinate to competition or competition, that should never be the case for music as such and playing an instrument. The comparison of success and ability on the instrument can be paralyzing poison. While many see the comparison with fellow musicians as an incentive and motivation to continue working on their skills, others react discouraged or frustrated when they realize that their playing is not as mature as that of a younger musician, for example. The latter example is described very well by John Riley in his textbook "The Art of Bop Drumming" by referring to the two legendary drummers Tony Williams and Steve Gadd. While Tony Williams played with Miles Davis at the age of 17, Steve Gadd only became known to a wider audience at the age of 30. If Steve Gadd, who was born the same year as Tony Williams, had been discouraged by Tony's early success at the time, the world might have had an incredibly influential drummer today.

make mistakes

The clever sentence "If you sound good while practicing, you don't improve" should definitely be internalized. Practicing is not about foreplay, but about working on completely new things or eliminating mistakes and uncertainties. You will not be able to sound good, especially at the beginning, which is why many musicians cannot practice if they have the feeling that someone is listening to them. Far from specific exercises, you should also take the time to break out of familiar playing patterns and allow new things and thus mistakes to happen. This is helpful for staying inspired and helping you develop your game.